New Jersey has a dozen official symbols, and nearly half were adopted the same way the taffy push got its start — as the idea of school students, this time from Sayreville's Samsel Upper Elementary School, who asked Assemblyman John Wisniewski to sponsor their idea after learning how bills become laws.
New Jersey is the birthplace of salt water taffy, which was first created in Atlantic City in the 1880s by candy maker David Bradley, supposedly after a storm soaked his taffy supply with Atlantic Ocean water. It remains a popular boardwalk staple today.
"With its origins in Atlantic City and its long association with the Jersey Shore, I thought that the students' request was appropriate," said Wisniewski, D-Middlesex, who referred to the students as "legislators in waiting" and "the youngest lobbyists ever to appear in Trenton."
Student advocates traveled en masse to the Statehouse, where they stuffed the Assembly tourism committee hearing room and provided lawmakers little bags of taffy. Six testified, including Brodie Gallagher, who wore a top hat, mustache and suspenders as he represented David Bradley.
"State symbols represent the cultural heritage and natural treasures of each state," said Lauren Alcasid.
"The state is in the process of rebuilding our Jersey Shore and boardwalk," said Tyler Graham. "Wouldn't it be nice to give the citizens of the state a reason to come to the Shore and purchase the official candy of New Jersey?"
Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle, D-Bergen, who had already dipped into her taffy bag for a banana-and-chocolate snack, said she hopes Gov. Chris Christie invites the Sayreville kids to the Atlantic City boardwalk for a ceremony when the bill becomes a law.
"I would hope that every one of you continue to stay involved and continue to give your legislators, your Assembly members, more ideas," Vainieri Huttle said.
"When I see this, I harken back to an expression – and I've said it often – that my grandmother gave to me: If you just observe, you get the government you deserve," said Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-Burlington. "For all the young people in the room who've now become active participants in our government, you should be proud."
"Growing up, salt water taffy was part of our life, as Jersey tomatoes was for me, Jersey corn. Salt water taffy was a big part of growing up in that region," said Assemblyman Vince Mazzeo, D-Atlantic. "I commend you on this. I just wonder why it was never brought to our attention before."
"Bringing attention to the success story and the comeback of Atlantic City, this is just one more way to do that, so I thank you and I really want to commend you," said Assemblyman Chris Brown, R-Atlantic. "You look great, you did great. And I think the Dental Association supports this bill very much, too."